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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently updated the guidelines for adolescent depression screening in primary care.
The original two-part guidelines were published in 2007. The first part covers suggestions on how primary care pediatricians can initially identify, assess, and manage depression among adolescents, while the second part provides recommendations on treatment and ongoing management of depression. But despite having these guidelines, pediatricians were still reluctant to diagnose adolescents due to the lack of training to accurately identify depression symptoms. Because of this, some depressed adolescents are left undiagnosed and untreated until they reach adulthood.
To address this problem, the AAP has revised the said guidelines this year. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the revised guidelines aim to equip pediatricians with knowledge on how to recognize and categorize depression symptoms.
Specifically, the revised guidelines recommend that pediatricians should annually screen adolescents starting from age 12 to 21. As part of the screening process, pediatricians will ask the patients to accomplish a detailed self-report form about depression symptoms. To ensure honesty among patients, pediatricians will also talk to them privately. Upon recognizing depression symptoms, pediatricians can either recommend treatments or endorse the patient to a mental health specialist.
Immediate diagnosis of depression is crucial because the number of depressed teenagers is currently on the rise. According to a research by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 3.1 million teens between the ages 12 to 17 in the United States suffered a serious bout of depression in 2016. The most common reasons why teens get depressed include academic pressure, high expectations from parents, and anxiety about their future.